Adopt Afro Latinidad

WALLINGFORD – Karisma Maldonado is a Puerto Rican from Meriden who identifies as Afro Latina. She hasn’t always done it. She didn’t feel any different when she was growing up, but that changed when she started attending St. Joseph College in West Hartford.

“I began to understand my place in Puerto Rican society and history,” she said. “Even as an older woman with children, taking college courses and learning about the immigration process and the slave trade, there is so much that people ignore.”

Maldonado has a hard time understanding how others perceive her when it comes to running. Often they don’t know if it’s mixed, black, or Latin. They look at individual characteristics like skin color or hair.

Maldonado is a bilingual teacher for Wallingford Public Schools. She feels representative of Latino culture and says she has embarked on education as a way to support students, showing Afro-Latinos, African-Americans, Latinos and children of color that they are important and that ‘they can make a difference.

“African blood flows through our veins, along with so many other cultures,” she said. “Being Afro Latino goes back to my Puerto Rican origins because of my ancestors and my lineage. That’s how I understood that was who I was.

Maldonado regularly faces ignorance and prejudice and responds by trying to be informative. She was faced with assumptions that she is an assistant or helper, not a teacher. Because there aren’t many Afro Latina in the community, an educated Afro Latina is not someone people find familiar, and her position is often downplayed.

“I try to educate people with my knowledge and what I know before I make assumptions about who they are,” she said.

Colorism is a form of discrimination based on skin color. It’s not always associated with racism because it doesn’t need to be tied to a specific race or ethnicity. A study from the Pew Research Center found that Latinos with darker skin reported more discrimination than those with lighter skin.

“A majority (62%) of Hispanic adults say that having a darker skin color at least affects the ability of Hispanics to grow in the United States today. A similar share (59%) say having lighter skin color helps Hispanics move forward. And 57% say skin color shapes their daily lives a lot or partially, with about half saying discrimination based on race or skin color is a “really big deal” in the United States today. According to the Pew Research Center’s National Latino Survey, a national bilingual survey of 3,375 American Hispanic adults conducted in March 2021.

Bridging cultures

As an Afro Latino, Francisco Lopez is aware of the many roots that have come together to shape his identity. These include African, Spanish and indigenous roots.

“My African roots as well as my European Spanish roots are recognized,” he said. “I also recognize and am proud to be part of a multinational community with the unifying characteristic of dark skin. But this is sometimes in tension with the realization of the transatlantic slave trade. “

Lopez lives and works in Wallingford. He is the board director at Choate Rosemary Hall and sits on the board of directors of the Spanish Community of Wallingford or SCOW, a local non-profit organization.

“More locally, where I live and work, it means I identify strongly with the African American community because that’s how people see me at first glance. Therefore, all the difficulties I face are similar to the difficulties faced by other black people in the country and in this city, ”he said.

The macabre history of Africans brought to the Americas through slavery has played a major role in the culture, genetics, and influence of the Caribbean and Latin America.

Ariel Lambe, professor of Latin American and Caribbean studies at the University of Connecticut, said a significant part of the African influence involved the cultivation of sugar. During the transatlantic slave trade, millions of Africans were sent to the Caribbean to work on plantations against their will. African slaves did not live long because of the conditions and were quickly replaced. It was mostly in Haiti and Brazil.

“The interesting by-product of this is that in these companies they constantly replaced dying workers. It created a different culture, ”she said.

The “new” culture that was created influenced language, religion, music, instruments and food according to geographic region.

Lopez’s parents emigrated from the Dominican Republic to Puerto Rico, where Lopez was born. When Lopez was 2 years old, the family moved to the Dominican Republic and then to New York.

Today, serving on the SCOW Board of Directors is one of the ways he stays in touch with his Latin roots.

“When I knew I was coming to Connecticut to be at Yale, I had the opportunity to find a place to live,” he recalls. “I searched the internet and found SCOW. We visited Wallingford because of SCOW and decided to move to Wallingford. ”

As the director of counseling at Choate, Lopez said he was aware that there weren’t many people of color in psychology and that he was now able to help.

“It’s important because I’m a licensed psychologist who is bilingual to provide support,” he said. “I am aware that I can meet the needs of the Latino community. ”

[email protected]: @jarelizz

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